Mr. Robert Bell, Defense Advisor U.S. Mission to NATO and Secretary of Defense Representative in Europe
Presentation on Ballistic Missile Defense
10 May 2016
Mr. Bell: My task today is to try to put this [ballistic missile defense] into context for you. To do that, I would like to address five different parts of this. The first is in regard to the origins of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. The second is to talk about where we were four years ago at the Chicago Summit, where we declared an interim capability. And then third, talk about where we expect to be in July at the Warsaw Summit, four years later. Why we think that we have advanced to another milestone that’s called Initial Operational Capability or IOC. Fourth, I’d like to just elaborate a bit on why this is not aimed at or oriented towards or related to Russia in any way whatsoever. And then last, I want to talk about why the system still has relevance in the wake of the agreement that’s been reached with regard to Iranian nuclear weapons.
So let me just take the origins first. As you know, the EPAA — European Phased Adaptive Approach — was put forward in 2009 by the Obama administration, coinciding with its announcement that it was terminating or canceling the previous plan for what was called the third site. The reason the previous plan was called the third site was because there was a first site and a second site, and the European site would have been the third site. The first site was in Vandenberg, California, where the U.S. deployed part of its national missile defense. The second site was in Alaska. And the Bush administration, indeed the Secretary of Defense for the Bush administration, Robert Gates, was of the view that it was necessary to have a third site to get full coverage to protect the U.S. homeland. But under review by Secretary Gates, the Obama administration came to a couple of conclusions about the third site and then the arguments for a different approach called EPAA.
And I would simply recommend to all of you Robert Gates’ autobiography, which is titled “Duty,” which was published in January 2014, because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what happened when the third site got canceled and how the EPAA got put forward. Secretary Gates, in his autobiography, makes clear that after he really began to review this, as he said, and I’m reading from his book, “By the time Obama took office it was pretty clear that our initiative”, i.e. the third site, “was going nowhere politically in either Poland or the Czech Republic and that even if it was somehow to proceed, political wrangling would delay its IOC by many years.”
So this is really the author of the third site proposal saying on the record in his autobiography that he came to the conclusion that the third site was not going to work as an approach. And beyond that, he reveals in his book that, based on new intelligence estimates that came out about that time, that said the Iranian effort to get an intercontinental range that could reach the United States was not as serious a threat as had previously been thought, that on intelligence grounds the Obama administration felt that they could concentrate on the first priority. This was the defense of Europe against a possible Iranian missile attack, and they [Obama administration] could be more confident that they didn’t need additional ICBM interceptors to protect the United States against the Iranian threat.
So the third site was canceled.
Admittedly, the roll-out of that was probably not the finest hour in American diplomacy. It would seem that our Polish and Czech friends and allies got caught a bit by surprise in terms of the pre-notification, and the fact that the announcement was made on the anniversary of the date that the Soviet Union had invaded Poland was not the most clever scheduling. But at any rate, we have labored since that point in 2009 to explain the European Phased Adaptive Approach, and I think the key point I would make is that as we’re progressing through that architecture deploying these capabilities, it has been intended from day one to go hand in glove with NATO, to be here for the protection of what we call NATO Europe.
The third site was intended to protect the United States. There has not been consideration given in the Bush administration to a system that was going to be integrated with NATO. So EPAA is very much an Alliance-oriented defense system, and the concept, quite simply, was to take advantage, as Secretary Gates states in his book and as he was advised by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Cartwright, to take advantage of new technological advances with regard to the Navy Aegis system and the SM-3 interceptors that would allow you to defend against projected Iranian threats in Europe using this naval interceptor system, the SM-3.
So that was the background, then, for the decision that NATO took at the Lisbon Summit at the end of 2010. The U.S. came in and made an extraordinary offer, which was to say we have this system based on Aegis and we’re prepared to make that available for the defense of NATO. And what we want NATO to do, in addition to developing a shorter range point defense that’s called theater missile defense or TMD, what we want NATO to do is to simply use common-funded NATO money to develop the command and control backbone for this EPAA system where the U.S. would be providing the radars, the interceptors, the ships and now the Aegis Ashore facilities, which is like a ship that’s simply run aground in the middle of Europe.
And after a long discussion with our allies through 2010 at the Lisbon Summit, heads of Sstate agreed to go forward with a system to provide full protection for all of NATO Europe, based on indications and warning and threat assessments. In other words, assuming you have a good sense of what part of Europe would be threatened, you can optimize this defense (since the Aegis ships are mobile) to defend any part of NATO Europe, whether that’s the Azores or Northern Greenland, Eastern Turkey, or Romania.
Now at the Chicago Summit, basically two years later, after a lot of work, heads of state declared that this system had achieved an interim capability (InCa). And the interim capability was based on a very preliminary set of assets: one ship that was homeported on the East Coast of the United States but that would come to Europe on a voyage to provide missile defense if required, and a radar which was deployed in Turkey, and this NATO-funded command and control backbone. And based on that, heads of state at Chicago said we can provide missile defense if required. That was assuming there was a crisis that got to a certain stage under which NATO then assigned the ship to NATO command and control.
Now, four years later as we prepare for the Warsaw Summit, what’s really remarkable is how far this system has come in terms of capability and in terms of the NATO owned and operated functionality that allows the defense planning, in other words the now-real time advance work to go forward under full political control of NATO, and to allow NATO command and control to be operative in those few minutes you have of an actual engagement because of NAC-approved planning. NAC-approved rules of engagement. NAC-reviewed defense designs and pre-planned response.
And by our assessment, it would seem that since the Chicago Summit by Warsaw, four years later, the capability of the system has been increased by an order of magnitude — in other words, roughly ten times. And that’s because we’ve gone from one ship to four ships, all of which are forward deployed at Rota and don’t have to sail back and forth across the Atlantic to be on station and the Aegis Ashore facility at Deveselu. So we have five times as many launch tubes as we had at the time of Chicago. But beyond that, the missiles that are in those launch tubes are more capable than the missiles we had in 2012 and the fire control system that’s been upgraded for the Aegis system is more capable than the fire control system we had at the time of Chicago. So you add it all up, it’s roughly a ten-fold increase in capability.
We also think that there’s been significant development in terms of the NATO owned and operated and common funded functionality program that accompanies this system. The Air Command and Control System, which is called ACCS, and the Air Command and Control Information System, AirC2IS. These two programs, which are major investment programs for NATO, have given NATO the competence that at 28 organization, NATO is exercising control of this system. This is not a case of just out-sourcing it, if you will, to one ally.
So we hope that once the results of the recent Steadfast Alliance sort of soup-to-nuts, end-to-end operational validation exercise that concluded April 29th are fully assessed at SHAPE, that the new SACEUR, General Scaparrotti, will be able later this month in his written report to the North Atlantic Council to certify that this test confirms that the system at this IOC level of capability is ready to be declared by NATO.
Let me turn then to the fourth category, which is why this system should not be of concern to Russia strategically. I don’t think it is of concern to Russia, except in the most extreme sort of almost fantastic extrapolation of worst-case analysis years into the future.
What you have now are interceptors that are capable against a limited threat, only a small number of missiles and not too sophisticated in the missiles capabilities themselves, that is coming from a particular direction to the southeast. The system is not oriented or situated and aimed at, if you will, Russia. It’s too far away. The interceptors would not be fast enough to catch Russian ICBMs that would be coming out of say Siberia or Central Russia, let alone have capability against Russian submarine-launched ballistic missiles that could be launched from areas in the Arctic.
So in terms of the technical capability of the system, the optimization of it, the orientation of it, the geographical layout of it, it simply could not pose a threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, even in the unimaginable case, as the Russians often talk about, where you assume that the United States made a first nuclear strike.
So what I think is really of concern to the Russians is that in time, and by that I think we mean decades, the performance technologies of missile defense might reach some point that would bring this into some sort of zone of concern. But that’s not been our experience to date. I would remind people that when the EPAA was first initiated, there was planning at that point for not only the current phase that we hope to declare at Warsaw, Phase II IOC, but a Phase III, we will be working on for the next four or five years, including an Aegis Ashore site in Poland. And beyond that, there was planning, at least at sort of the PowerPoint level, for a possible Phase IV where you would have something called an SM3-2B interceptor that would be fast enough to shoot down an ICBM.
The Phase IV part of EPAA was terminated about two years ago. It was terminated for a very good reason, and that’s following extensive studies by the top contractors in America, industry came back to the Pentagon and reported that it was not possible within the technological state of the art to produce an interceptor small enough to fit in an Aegis launch tube that had solid propellant, as opposed to a more dangerous at-sea liquid propellant, that could go fast enough to catch an ICBM. So that program was terminated.
Yet despite that, the Russians are still saying that this system does or could conceivably acquire the capability to intercept their missiles. I don’t think there’s any basis for that concern. And beyond that, of course, the NATO missile defense system is simply one regional adjunct, if you will, of U.S. missile defense capabilities in other parts of the world, including our national defense with our ground-based interceptors, of which there are only 44 under the most recent Pentagon proposals.
So the Russian idea that missile defense would be intended by the United States to neuter their strategic deterrent also assumes that the U.S. has a secret plan to exponentially increase the number of interceptors in the United States and to concentrate most of our Navy in certain regions to try to put up some sort of barrier against where Russian missiles would be incoming.
It’s all a bit fantastic and it’s unfortunately, an example of sort of worst-case planning carried to an illogical extreme.
Let me then close by just talking about after the Iranian nuclear deal and why NATO believes that it’s important that we continue to go forward with this program.
First, I will simply note that everyone is extremely impressed by what’s been achieved by the Iranian nuclear deal, and everyone is committed in this alliance — we had a recent set of briefings on this in the North Atlantic Council — everyone is committed to try to ensure its success, which means full implementation over time by Iran, leading to a situation where their ability to move to a nuclear weapons capability would take at least a year or more.
But President Obama’s been quite clear that we are keeping various safeguards in place to hedge, if you will, against the possibility of an Iranian decision to covertly try to circumvent the treaty. For example, the United States is keeping in place the option of what’s called snap-back sanctions. And in that context, NATO missile defense provides a disincentive to Iran to consider cheating because they would know that even if they took the risk of cheating and then deployed a capability, they would not achieve a strategic advantage vis-à-vis Europe. NATO would still have in place missile defense systems that could frustrate any design they might have entertained of using that capability for diplomatic blackmail purposes in some sort of crisis.
So in my view, by going forward with NATO missile defense, we are reinforcing the Iranian nuclear deal and increasing the probability that it will be a success.
Beyond that, I would simply note that as most of you are well aware and some of you may have even been reporting today because there’s been news out today on this, Iran is continuing in a quite defiant way to pursue quite aggressively a ballistic missile modernization program with missiles tests that in the view of the United States are inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran not to develop missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. And the range and payload capability of the missiles that Iran tested, both in October and November and now they claim this week, apparently gets into that range of a system that would be capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
The administration previously sanctioned earlier this year Iran because of those missile tests and these tests that are being claimed this week remain under review.
I’m happy to stop at that point and take your questions.
Media: Good afternoon. My name is Eric Frijsen, from Elsevier in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
My question is about the very idea of missile defense. For instance, talking about Iran, their modernization program is now facing towards missiles that, once launched, split up in ten different missiles. I believe the right definition for this is MIRV. And incoming, one incoming missile, maybe it’s possible to kill, but when it splits into ten different missiles, of course it’s far harder to kill those, all ten of them.
So the very idea of missile defense is killing one bullet by bullet, but in order to be effective a missile defense system not only kills the incoming missiles, but also the launch platforms. So since NATO worked on the very idea of not only responding to the first strike, for instance Iran, but also reacting to it with a strike against all possible launch platforms. Would that be possible?
Mr. Bell: Throughout the long history of the debates over missile defense in my country, which go back at least 20 years or back to the 1960s actually, if you want to go back to the original Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty days, it’s always been a case of an action/reaction contest between the offense and the defense.
Now as you point out, the more sophisticated the offense, or in this case the more sophisticated the incoming missile, the greater the demands on the defensive system to be effective. And the success of the defensive system for a kinetic kill interceptor, one that doesn’t rely on an explosive device, or as once was the case even a nuclear-tipped anti-ballistic missile interceptor, a hit to kill interceptor then depends on the fire control system fundamentally and the discrimination capabilities of the sensor suites that are accompanying the defensive system.
So as the United States itself has worked through its national missile defense, there’s been continuing research and development efforts on ever more discriminating hit to kill interceptor systems. That’s part of the budget request that’s gone to the Congress now, for FY17 in terms of the U.S. program back in California and in Alaska.
And as I noted, the SM-3 system is itself has progressed through various capabilities in terms of the model type, from the 1A to the 1B to the 2A, and in the fire control systems that govern its capabilities. There’s also extensive research and development going on into the sensors that provide the ability to look into the material that’s come from a launched ballistic missile and pick out, if you will, what is a warhead as opposed to what may be a cover for a warhead that has been jettisoned once the missile got into space.
I’m not going to attempt, at this point, to draw any bottom line conclusions about Iranian capabilities. We know they’re trying to improve the capabilities of their system. NATO is improving the capability of its SM-3 system as we march through these various steps, various phases of EPAA.
I would simply close by saying by definition an Adaptive European Phased Approach anticipates that you increase the capabilities, if required, if the threat increases; or alternatively you can dial back down if threats go away.
Media: Brooks Tiegner, Jane’s Defence Weekly. Just two questions.
A few years ago we were told that there were certain small corners of Europe that were still unprotected by the BMD umbrella. Is that still the case today? And what do the allies expect to be done about that?
And secondly, the same thing, a few years ago we were told about [inaudible] architecture [inaudible] would cost around 200 million. Is that still the case? Or did NATO come in or under that amount [inaudible]? And would you care to give us a ball park estimate for the cost of Phase II work? Thank you.
Mr. Bell: When NATO heads of state declared, Brooks, at the Chicago Summit four years ago that we had an interim capability to provide full protection of NATO Europe based on threat assessments and indication and warning with immediate operational effect, they were saying we have the capability to defend any of those corners of Europe, assuming we decide that’s the corner of Europe that’s being threatened.
So with an Aegis system, if you’re asked to defend Greenland, you can send the Aegis ship north from Rota. If you’re asked to defend the Azores and the Canary Islands, which NATO includes in its definition of the protected area called NATO Europe, you can send the ship west. And if you’re being asked to cover large parts of Turkey, you can send Aegis ships east, either to the eastern Med or the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
Now in terms of the physics of it, depending on the incoming missile and the capability of the interceptor on the Aegis ship, you are correct in noting that there are parts of the land mass of Eastern Europe that are too far east to be protected by an Aegis ship that’s well to the west, still back in the Mediterranean or the Black Sea. But the United States has another system which is sort of equivalent to Aegis in capability that’s called THAAD. You’ve been noticing the press commentary on the crisis with North Korea; you know the importance of THAAD in terms of defense in the Pacific. You’re also probably aware that the U.S. has agreed to sell THAAD to a Gulf State. So the THAAD system is not only in the U.S. inventory, but it’s operationally deployed in the Pacific and is potentially an export capability in itself. So we do have options to defend any corner of Turkey, whether it’s the radar that’s deployed there or the easternmost corner of Turkey, if the assessment and indications and warning with regard to the threat tell you that that’s the threatened area.
Now you asked about cost. When we were back at the Lisbon Summit, which was six years ago, then Secretary General Rasmussen publicly was referring to a figure of about 180 to 200 million euros. And that was the cost over ten years to take the command and control system that had been planned before NATO decided to do territorial defense. It was a theater missile defense system called ALTBMD. And upgrade that to give it that command and control backbone, the capability to provide command and control for territorial defense of NATO Europe. We used then to say if the total cost is about 200 million and that’s over ten years, then that’s about 20 million a year, and that’s shared by 28 countries. And if you take out the U.S. paying 21 percent of that, we estimated that for a mid-sized European ally like the Netherlands, the cost of agreeing to territorial missile defense was about the cost of buying one-half of a tank each year. A couple of million dollars.
Now the figure that NATO is using now in its public affairs information kits you’ll see is one billion, and that’s because we now are fully reflecting all the costs for those parts of the ex-ACCS system, the Air Command and Control system that relate to the BMD mission as well as all the other functionality programs like the AirC2IS and the connecting NATO ground communication system itself.
So the best figure is roughly one billion over the full length of the system. That’s not an up-front acquisition cost. That’s a ten-year life cycle cost. So I don’t know how to relate that to Phase II or Phase III, but by the time we finish Phase III which is in about a decade, we will have spent about a billion euros total on NATO BMD.
Media: My name is Dragos Vulvara from Romania, from Digi24 television. I have two questions for you.
First of all, I would like to ask you to explain to us how Aegis Ashore Deveselu with work [inaudible] command and control. It will be a NATO command over there.
And my second question is about if the Deveselu site was already teste and what were the results?
Thank you very much.
Mr. Bell: The concept that NATO has agreed to, the U.S. offered and NATO accepted for command and control of the Aegis Ashore site at Deveselu and the Aegis Ashore site that will be now constructed in Poland, is that the U.S. will transfer command and control responsibility for the capabilities at that site to NATO in peacetime. In other words, it’s not dependent on a crisis.
Up to now the backbone for NATO’s missile defense capability going back to Chicago has been these Aegis ships, but the arrangement we’ve had with NATO is that the ships would remain under U.S. command and control doing all sorts of missions. An Aegis ship is a multi-mission capable ship, whether it’s anti-submarine warfare or air defense or escort duty or making port calls or interoperability training, and those ships at Rota have been off doing all sorts of things since they first began coming over permanently to stay at Rota, and would only be put under NATO command and control if a crisis reached a certain advanced stage. In fact, since Chicago, since the InCa was declared at Chicago, there’s not been an occasion when the NATO ships have been put under NATO command and control in a crisis. But the U.S. ships at Rota have participated in exercises and in an actual missile defense intercept. The Donald Cook, off the coast of Scotland, participated last year in the at-sea demonstration that about ten NATO allies participated in where a ballistic missile target was actually shot down. The first time that has ever occurred in Europe.
But with the Aegis ships, the concept is that they remain under U.S. control. If there’s a crisis and that crisis reaches a certain stage, then the transfer occurs.
What’s different with Aegis Ashore, of course, is that even though it looks like the super structure of an Aegis ship, it’s not going to go anywhere. It is fixed to the ground. It’s not making any port calls. It’s certainly not going to go somewhere to do anti-submarine warfare. It is there for one purpose, which is missile defense. It’s a single mission capability based on the Aegis ship, but permanently set on land. So there was no reason not to put the system under full-time control of NATO, including in peace time, and that’s the concept that everyone has accepted.
The Aegis Ashore facility was put through very rigorous testing throughout last year, and just before Christmas, I believe it was December 17th, there was a ceremony in Bucharest attended by the senior leadership of the Romanian government, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, representatives of NATO and the Department of Defense including myself, and of course the U.S. Ambassador in Bucharest, at which the technical capability of the system was declared to be in place. At that point, the system was handed off from the Missile Defense Agency, which was the part of the Pentagon tasked with acquiring and fielding the system, to the United States Navy that’s tasked with operating it.
So what we’re anticipating then for later this week, and that you’ll be covering on this tour, is the declaration at Deveselu that this system is now ready and available to be put under NATO command and control. We will not actually do that, though, until NATO agrees by consensus among the 28 allies. We are confident this will be the case, certainly hope so, by Warsaw or at Warsaw, that the system has achieved its IOC milestone. In other words, all nations are confident that there’s full NATO political control of this capability that warrants it being under NATO command and control as opposed to the European command of the United States command and control.
Media: On the issue of Russia, and Russia as you admit is nervous about this, worrying about it. I can’t quite see how you can say it’s got nothing to do with Russia in the sense that you have said yourself except in a worst-case analysis. So it’s conceivable, isn’t it, that this could be used —
Mr. Bell: No.
Media: — for protection against Russia.
Mr. Bell: The worst-case analysis that I’m talking about is a projected into decades ahead worst-case analysis. Not a use today under a worst-case scenario. Let’s be clear. Under the worst-case scenario today, if there was conflict with Russia, it could not be used against Russia. It’s not oriented toward Russia. It doesn’t have the capability to engage Russian ICBMs from where they would be launched.
My point about the worst-case analysis was this: in the United States in the 1960s we had a great debate about the anti-ballistic missile treaty and there was a worst-case analysis point of view on the U.S. side in that debate among certain conservative figure (not necessarily Republicans; I believe some of them were Democrats). This view said if you assume that Russia, or then the Soviets, have a secret plan to use their air defense systems as ABMs and a secret plan to use the backfire bomber as a preemptive strike weapon, and you assume a Soviet decision to break out of the ABM Treaty, then before we could deploy enough nuclear firepower, the Soviets would be able to launch a nuclear first strike on America and then use this secret missile defense capability resident in their air defense system to contain our retaliation. And we had a debate on that for years in the 1960s. You can go back and read some of the articles that Richard Perle was writing at the time.
In my view there’s sort of an equivalent degree of extreme worst case projection here. The Russian paranoia here is that the United States is going to plan a first strike on them, that we’re going to take all of our Aegis ships from around the world and bring them somewhere north of Canada and line them up in a defensive barrier. That we are then going to attempt to use that, in concert with our national missile defense systems, to contain their retaliation following a U.S. first strike, and that somehow the NATO system would be part of that because we would secretly substitute land attack cruise missiles into the Aegis ships for the anti-ballistic missile interceptors that are in those tubes now. And in my way of thinking, that’s a fantastic scenario — in the sense of it being a fantasy. But that is the strategic anxiety that is prompting this Russian line of criticism.
Media: Would you concede though that by pushing ahead you’re never going to overcome Russia’s concerns, are you? You wouldn’t want to sort of say [inaudible] Russia, given that you’ve got a nuclear agreement with Iran. The sensible way forward would be not to proceed.
Mr. Bell: Again, you have to understand the Russian strategic paranoia about missile defense in a context much broader than just this relatively modest and limited NATO system. The Russian complaint is about the U.S. global capability. Of which the NATO part is just a piece. And the Russian demand in the negotiations that went on for several years in the Obama administration until the Russians broke them off in 2013 — this was pre-Crimea, let’s be clear — was that the United States had to agree to legally binding performance caps on the capability of its interceptors. In other words, we would agree in a treaty that we would not build an interceptor that could go faster than a certain speed.
Now no government could accept such a limitation. Think about what the implications of that would be in the context of North Korea’s efforts right now to try to get nuclear weapons onto intercontinental range capable missiles. Any government has to protect the option to protect itself against an ever-more sophisticated missile threat.
So the United States made clear that this Russian demand as a precondition even for transparency exchanges, or for the creation of the joint centers that we had proposed back in 2013 where we were trying to cooperate on missile defense with Russia — we made clear that their precondition for that cooperative relationship was unacceptable to this government and any government.
And it’s too bad, because with that we lost what before, going back to the creation of the NATO-Russia Council, had been a quite robust and mutually beneficial cooperative pattern on missile defense.
When I was Assistant Secretary General here, I oversaw sort of the high water mark of this cooperation. After months and months of joint planning, we deployed battle staffs to a facility in Germany and had a computer-assisted exercise that we ran through for about a week, where we assumed some crisis in the world where NATO and Russia had gone in together with military force against an adversary that was shooting ballistic missiles back. And we had perfected then all of the communications and coordination procedures that would allow a zone of defense where Russia would defend to the east and NATO would defense to the west, which we did for several days in this exercise, with common situational awareness, common terminology, command post interlinks. Then when NATO ran out of interceptors at the end of the exercise and other missiles were coming in to hit NATO targets to the west, we asked Russia to do the intercept and they did.
So that was the potential that was there, with what NATO had on offer for a cooperative approach, and it was impossible to realize that because Russia, because of this paranoia about where missile defense might be 20 years from now in terms of state of the art technological advances, said no to that cooperation. Unless you agree now to legally binding restrictions on the performance capability of your interceptors.
Media: Piotr Swierczek, TVN24 Poland. Two questions for you.
One is involving Russia again, because you mentioned [inaudible], because you said that it’s kind of [inaudible]. [Inaudible] the fact that [inaudible] and they remove some of the eastern side to Kaliningrad.
And another question is, of course, [inaudible] but is it possible to [shoot] down the [inaudible] which will be launched from the Kaliningrad [inaudible]?
Mr. Bell: I’m not going to answer the second question because it would require going into a classified session and I have a feeling that as capable as you journalists are, you’re not carrying classification entitlement documents with you to Deveselu.
But obviously what NATO is trying to do is to have a missile defense system that’s capable against assessed threats, particularly from the Middle East — that’s Syria and Iran, the Iskander is more sophisticated than where the Syrian or Iranian threats are so far, but I’m not going to get into a system by system comparison of what kind of ballistic missile defense system would be required to intercept an Iskander.
It is a concern, of course, that the Russians have been highlighting the Iskander system, and in a previous snap exercise they even boasted on Moscow TV that they had slipped, if you will, Iskanders into Kaliningrad under NATO’s noses, used them in an exercise, and then got them back out without NATO intelligence, as the TV said at least, picking up on that.
But the main point I would make is that Russia is pursuing, in terms of its non-strategic nuclear forces, whether it’s land-based like Iskanders, sea-based like submarine launched, or cruiser/destroyer launched or air launched like their Bear bomber. A broad pattern of nuclear capable systems that are either ballistic or cruise missile in terms of their power source. And all of these, of course, are a concern to NATO because it represents a fairly robust and expansive extension of capabilities they’ve always had at least numerically. But now the precision and the range of these systems is being increased as well.
Before Crimea, before working relations were suspended by NATO because of Russia’s aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, we had been ready to engage the Russians in discussions about non-strategic nuclear systems. NATO’s reductions have been about 90 percent, if you go back to the Cold War high. But unfortunately, Russia never followed through on the presidential commitments that had been made by Mr. Yeltsin with regard to those forces in Russia. So there is quite an imbalance in terms of non-strategic nuclear forces in this part of the world and it’s overwhelmingly in favor, if you will, of Russia.
But this is not the object of NATO’s EPAA. NATO’s EPAA, as I said, is oriented against, principally as far as the United States is concerned, against missile threats coming from Iran and Syria or any other proliferated threat that might emerge in the Middle East.
Let me just make one other comment on the Iskander, particularly since they question came from a Polish journalist
NATO itself is not spending NATO money, by that I mean common funded euros, to purchase interceptors. Or radars. The only NATO expenditure is on the command and control backbone. So the decision about what shooter systems, what interceptors, what sensors, what radars are available to be put under NATO command and control is strictly a national decision. National decision as to what kind of system to acquire, with what kind of capability, and a national decision about whether to put that system, offer it to be part of the NATO system under NATO C2 in a crisis.
So as the Polish government itself considers its acquisition, planned acquisition of a theater missile defense capability, it has full prerogative to take into account whatever performance capability of possible threatening systems like the Iskander it wants. And if Poland wants to acquire a TMD system that it has confidence would be effective against the Iskander, it has that right and that prerogative.
Media: Robin Emmott, Reuters.
I wanted to know: is the remaining site for any operational use [inaudible]? Second, what difference would the Polish site make in terms of the strength or [inaudible] increase from the [inaudible]?
And lastly, on Russia, given that it is [inaudible] Russia, would it not be better to have waited a bit before [inaudible]? Just because this buildup would be on the eastern flank, the Warsaw Summit, wouldn’t it be better to wait a little bit to avoid tensions building between East and West? Thank you.
Mr. Bell: So your first question was, is the Deveselu site switched on yet?
Media: Is it operational?
Mr. Bell: Well, the ceremony that will take place there in two days is intended to announce and declare the operational availability of the site to be put under NATO command and control. In other words, all of the tests have been done to check out and confirm and validate all the linkages between the site and NATO command authority so that the system can be effectively commanded from Ramstein, where NATO has its air command multinational headquarters for integrated air and missile defense. The site is capable today at Deveselu under U.S. command and control. But as of the announcement this week, it will be available to be put under NATO command and control. Our intention is to do that coincident with the declaration of Initial Operational Capability, which is a major objective, a priority objective of President Obama for this summit. We are still here in this headquarters, with 60 days to go to Warsaw, completing the last pieces of the whole mosaic of steps that we agreed would be conditions to be put in place prior to declaration of IOC.
The principal remaining condition to be satisfied, as far as the United States is concerned, is the written certification from SACEUR, now General Scaparrotti, which is expected on May 24th, that this steadfast alliance test that was conducted from April 12th to April 29th or April 19th to April 29th, validated the operational effectiveness of the system at this IOC level.
So I think you can assume that Aegis Ashore is ready to go. It’s ready to go now in terms of U.S. command and control, and we will declare this week that it’s available as soon as NATO completes its homework, to be put under NATO C2 as of Warsaw.
What the Polish site adds is more geographic coverage in terms of areas that are under this peace time footprint of a defended area. Remember that I started out by saying that the predominant planning assumption for NATO missile defense is that NATO will examine what the threat is and optimize the defense based on what is threatened. If the Azores aren’t threatened, you don’t need to have Aegis ships off the Canary Islands. And the point of the ships at Rota is that they can be dispatched to sort of patrol points or what NATO calls strategic deployment options, SDOs, that through computer analysis have been optimized as the ideal location to get as broad a coverage of some area as possible, taking into account the areas that will be covered permanently by these Aegis Ashore facilities.
So with two Aegis Ashore facilities, each with SM2B or WM3-2A missiles which provides a pretty robust footprint for attacks from the southeast, then you can decide where to put the Aegis ships to complement that standing coverage and have a lot more flexibility in the design.
It also adds, of course, more interceptors. At some point, just as we discussed earlier about action/reaction, offense/defense in terms of performance capabilities and things like maneuvering warheads or MIRV warheads, it’s also an offense/defense contest in terms of sheer numbers because you have a finite number of interceptors at these sites and you have an inventory potentially that could exceed the number of interceptors, which then requires you to go to some sort of prioritization scheme which NATO has agreed upon.
So the second Aegis Ashore site also gives you more defense in depth simply in terms of numbers if the threat is against Central Europe.
Then in terms of waiting, we see no reason to wait. We’ve been in this discussion with Russia since 2009. It was quite active. The Under Secretary of Defense James Miller came and met with Mr. Antonov many times on this. We worked very hard to put concrete, far-reaching, unprecedented proposals on the table in terms of the two centers and the transparency regime that we had on offer, and the Russians chose to break off the talks in 2013.
Since then, their line of criticism has not changed. We will continue to explain to them why it’s unfounded criticism. But there is no reason to think that in August, we would hear anything different than we would in July or September or before. We are persuaded and completely convinced that this does not threaten Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent in any way that has any meaning. We need the system to stay ahead of developments in terms of missile proliferation from the southeast, including a very defiant Iranian program to improve the performance capability of its ballistic missile force.
Media: My name is Momchil Indjov. I’m a Bulgarian journalist from the ClubZ magazine.
I have just one question. Were there discussions about building the Aegis facility? Were there discussions about building it in Romania or in Bulgaria? And if so, does the fact that it was given to Romania mean that NATO has more confidence in Romania than in Bulgaria?
Mr. Bell: No. It’s not whatsoever a question of favoring one ally over the other. NATO’s fundamental principle is Article 5. My President, Barack Obama in his quite remarkable speech in Tallinn in September before the Wales Summit, said that as far as the United States is concerned, there are no first class and second class allies. There are no big allies and little allies. They’re just allies. And as far as we’re concerned, we have equal respect for each of you.
I was not in the government in 2009 when the original planning for parts of the EPAA were conceived so I’m not personally privy to the kinds of discussions that led Romania to offer to be a host nation. Obviously, the geography comes into this if you’re looking at Iranian threats. I don’t personally know whether Bulgaria had expressed any interest and this was a question of choosing between the two or whether it simply was the case that we were looking for an Aegis Ashore site in that part of southeastern Europe and Romania made clear early on that it was open to that discussion.
There were also, I know, considerations given in the early days about the siting of the radar, the TPY-2 radar. And as I recall, there were choices in terms of where it could be effective, including Bulgaria or Turkey, and in the end the Turkish site was deemed to be optimal geographically vis-à-vis the threat. Again, the threat is not Russia. The threat is to the southeast.
If the concern here was Russia, the TPY-2 radar would not be where it is in Turkey. And the decision was then taken, once the Turkish government made clear its willingness subject to a detailed negotiation of course to be a host site for the radar, that the radar would go into Turkey.
So Bulgaria’s fully covered by this. Bulgaria’s paying for part of it through its common funded assessment at NATO. Bulgarian officers are in the NATO command structure that will oversee the command and control of it so we certainly regard Bulgaria as a full partner in NATO missile defense, even though there’s no Aegis Ashore on your soil.
Jonathan Beale, BBC: You’ve been quite deliberate, it seems to me, in your language about saying it’s not a threat to Russian strategic nuclear deterrence. But is it a potential, could it be used against tactical nuclear weapons Russia might have, you know [inaudible]. In other words, is there a reason why you’re being so deliberate about the language?
Mr. Bell: Jonathan, I’ve been deliberate because the Russian criticism is that this is aimed at its strategic deterrent. I mean they’re making a strategic argument. NATO ballistic missile defense, of course, operates at different levels of capability. The Aegis upper tier exo-atmospheric is sort of the high end in terms of what provides wide area population and territorial defense that comes into play with strategic systems.
If you get to the lower end of NATO ballistic missile defense, you have systems like the Patriot, or the French-Italian Aster SAMP/T. Patriot’s not just U.S., of course. Patriot is German, it’s Dutch, it’s Spanish.
So a Patriot, if you’re asking me is there any part of NATO ballistic missile defense that could be used against a Russian incoming ballistic missile, yes. You can use a Patriot to try to defend a point defense site, a headquarters, a facility, a port, an airfield. If you’re trying to defend against Russian cruise missiles, you might use a look-down/shoot-down missile off a fighter plane. Fourth or fifth generation fighter which are in the UK inventory as well as many other allied inventories. And that’s part of integrated air and missile defense as well.
So you know, conceptually, there are dimensions of NATO missile defense that would be relevant to a scenario that could include Russia if you assume conflict. But I’m talking about the intention, the design, the orientation, of the system we’re putting in place across Europe with Aegis to provide territorial, wide area defense of NATO-Europe populations and land against proliferated threats to the southeast.
Media: Heidi Jensen, Denmark.
So [inaudible] in Rota to [inaudible]. What more do you need? I mean are you hoping for more countries joining in with capabilities in the missile defense? Can you expect [inaudible]? Denmark has [inaudible] ships. I don’t know if [inaudible]. But do you need more to make it more capable?
Mr. Bell: We have been clear going back to the Lisbon Summit that national decisions to contribute capabilities to this would be voluntary because the U.S. stepped forward from day one and said look, we’re providing the lion’s share of this, about 90 percent of it, with the Aegis system at sea and ashore and the TYP-2 radar.
But NATO missile defense, BMD, is more than just that wide area of backbone. It’s also the point defense systems you need, depending on what conflict scenario you’re planning against. NATO has a level of ambition in terms of its capability to be effective across a full spectrum of possible conflicts, including a collective defense scenario. And if you get to sort of the high end of that and assume a conflict against a peer competitor that’s high intensity and sort of across Europe and then you project the number of TMD systems you would need to be accompanying the land, air and sea deployments that you would be making to resist that aggression or take back any part of NATO that had been, where you’d have an incursion, you have a fairly robust number in terms of how much TMD capability the planning suggests is required. That’s why the strategic commanders of NATO have identified TMD as a critical shortfall with this, within this alliance.
So within NATO’s defense planning process itself, the planning process encourages allies to acquire and be prepared to contribute TMD systems against that level of ambition. It’s in that context that the United States and NATO have welcomed the announcement by Denmark that it intends to invest a modest amount of your defense budget but an important part of your defense budget since that budget’s under pressure in upgrading the sensor capabilities on the Danish frigates to allow them to be interoperable, be a Link-16 with the Aegis system so that you could then deploy a Danish frigate some distance from an Aegis-equipped interceptor ship and using the sensor track off that Danish ship launch the Aegis interceptor off the American ship before the radar on the American ship saw the incoming missile.
This is not fantasy. This is what we demonstrated off the coast of Scotland in October in this at-sea demonstration 2016. And in that demonstration, the ship that was forward was a Dutch frigate, the Dutch having decided to enhance the Smart-L Radar on their naval platforms to be interoperable with Aegis. And the post-intercept analysis showed that the track, the quality of the track that was being provided back to the Donald Cook from the Dutch frigate was of such good quality that the Donald Cook could have launched the Aegis missile against the Dutch track.
So it’s those kinds of contributions that are most welcome from NATO allies in this missile defense area — that is strictly Denmark’s decision to make. It’s unfortunate that once you announced that, the Russian Ambassador in Copenhagen went public with a threat to put Copenhagen on Russia’s nuclear target list.
Moderator: Thank you very much, Mr. Bell. We appreciate it.